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The Question

(Submitted January 08, 1998)

My friend and I were wondering how do scientists get the space probes that search other planets, like Voyager etc. through the asteroid belt? If the probes went through the asteroid belt wouldn't they get hit by a rock and get damaged?

The Answer

Planetary probes can pass through the asteroid belt without any problem because, unlike in the movies, there is really a LOT of space between asteroids. More than 7000 have been discovered and several hundred new ones are found every year. There are probably millions of asteroids of various size, but those in the asteroid belt are spread over a ring that is more than a billion kilometers in circumference, more than 100 million kilometers wide, and millions of kilometers thick. For more information, you can look at http://nineplanets.org/asteroids.html

Thanks for your questions

Eric Christian
for Ask an Astrophysicist

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